Matches (13)
WTC (1)
Charlotte Edwards (2)
Continental Cup (2)
County DIV2 (4)
County DIV1 (4)
Match Analysis

India's chase machine hits snags

India have mastered the template for big chases over the last few years. On Thursday, however, they came unstuck against a bunch of hungry Bangladesh pacers

India's batsmen were harried as much by scoreboard pressure as by some incisive pace bowling  •  AFP

India's batsmen were harried as much by scoreboard pressure as by some incisive pace bowling  •  AFP

It was sudden. And everywhere. The noise from the Shere Bangla can leave sonic booms behind. Bangladesh, having summoned it, rode the wave. The Indians, caught in the slipstream, simply faded.
The new ball zipped under lights for Mustafizur Rahman and Taskin Ahmed. It seemed like someone had outfitted the batsman's pads with a homing beacon. The edge had one too. Both were malfunctioning slightly because Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma were either hit too high or beaten outside off. Four appeals from 25000 people, forget the Bangladesh team, in the first three overs.
Ajinkya Rahane was kept on nought for seven balls. So he punched the eighth. And it was down the ground, one of the highest percentage areas for a batsman. Except Rubel Hossain threw himself to his right and stopped it. Effort was being invested to trouble the batsman as consistently as possible and it was clear in their unrestrained celebrations. The crowd was thrilled.
India, though, were confused. There had been nervous footwork from the top-order batsmen. Virat Kohli had none when he nicked off for 1. There was some harried running, too. But the intent shown on singles wasn't so much to feed the innings as find a safe place. If they could somehow take the score towards 100, chances of regrouping would increase.
For MS Dhoni's men, targets over 300 are bosom buddies. Since he took over as captain in September 2007, India have been set such a task 26 times. Six successful chases, and out of the remaining 20, they've scored 275 or more eight times. A frequency like that indicates that their batsmen have become well-drilled in the routine.
So Rohit worked industriously on the puzzle in front of him. The extra bounce from Bangladesh that confounded the rest of the line-up helped him unleash the horizontal bat shots. He trusted the pull, in the same way as his timing when the ball was fuller. The fact that he felt more assured at the crease was exemplified by him having faced 40 of the first 60 balls. And he was batting at over a run-a-ball. Not the usual Rohit gameplan. Dr Jekyll had dipped into his potion early.
But just when he was approaching something close to a solution, Mustafizur simply reaches out, crumples the work and tosses it in the bin: an offcutter, disguised as a leg-stump half-volley, took the leading edge and ballooned to mid-off. A maiden ODI wicket. Skill had outdone skill.
Mashrafe Mortaza, the catcher and the captain, had taken a punt by handing the 19-year old a debut and, in the process, rolling out a four-man pace attack. In the only Test in Fatullah earlier, Bangladesh had been content with only one. They batted carelessly, and the bowling lacked threat. It wasn't the greatest first impression. Also, the more immediate impact of Bangladesh being restricted to 62 runs after the 40th over in Mirpur can't be underestimated.
Enough reasons for India to perhaps think their tried-and-tested template for big chases was still going according to plan. But when the batsmen walked out for the chase, they were ambushed one by one. Towards the end of his spell, Mustafizur was on a hat-trick and bowling to two slips, two gullies and short cover. Prospects of an India win had descended into the region of an upset.
It could be a hint of underestimation. India have had no reason to doubt themselves in the subcontinent. Least of all their batting. It was certainly a case of being unable to catch up once things began slipping away. India's chasing machine hit far too many snags. And before anyone even noticed, they toppled from 95 for 0 to 188 for 7.
Numbers can be gruesome but the story they convey merits debate, if not acceptance. In Mirpur, the second-ranked team wasn't allowed to play the 50 overs and was overwhelmed by the now seventh-ranked team by 79 runs. Bangladesh brought the fight. Relentlessly. India couldn't block because scoreboard pressure was pushing them into the corner, nor could they counter. As Dhoni later said, "our batsmen just weren't up to the mark."

Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo